Perhaps the most amusing development in what has been a largely ho-hum race to replace the retiring David Vitter in the U.S. Senate has been the way David Duke – given a completely outsized amount of media attention for a candidate with no hope of winning – has actually become a more contentious figure among Democrats than Republicans.
The media has spent a lot of time on the fact that Duke has played up his support for Donald Trump, which is little more than Duke attempting to cast himself not as a former Klan leader and an overtly racist figure but as someone aligned with the populist/nationalist Alt-Right which adopted Trump as their champion. But none of the three major GOP candidates in the race have paid much attention to Duke – while Rob Maness and Abhay Patel spent some time attacking him earlier in the campaign, John Kennedy, Charles Boustany and John Fleming largely looked upon that as “punching down” and ignored Duke. That included refraining from trying to tar each other with connections to Duke, largely because none of the three have any.
It’s fair to say none of the Democrats particularly do, either, but that hasn’t stopped them from attacking each other using Duke as the bogeyman.
First was Josh Pellerin, who some believe was put into the race by Boustany in order to siphon Democrat votes in southwest Louisiana away from Caroline Fayard. If that contention has any truth to it, it may have been signaled by Pellerin’s attack on Fayard as a Duke-style hater owing to statements she made years ago to the effect that she hates Republicans and that Republicans eat their young; that kind of blood libel is reminiscent of some of the darker and kookier things one can find in the anti-semitic fever swamps, and Pellerin figured he’d just throw it out there.
That hit on Fayard sent her out on a full-scale crusade of virtue-signalling, including a press release claiming to be fighting against Duke and the “good old boys” who run Louisiana (she comes from a family which is as good-old-boy as anyone can be, but whatever) and declaring in an August campaign forum that attacks Duke had made on her were a “badge of honor” and putting out a radio ad calling herself the “only one person in the race who’s the direct opposite of David Duke.” Duke had, in a Facebook post, referenced the Fayards’ campaign donations to Hillary Clinton and equated both women as “white leftist, extremely wealthy ‘melting pot’ pushers.”
So when Fayard played the Duke card, her chief rival for the Democrat vote Foster Campbell was quick to slap her down.
“Ms. Fayard is desperately trying to grab free press by escalating a fight with David Duke to cover up the fact that she’s been MIA for every fight that has mattered for our people,” Campbell spokeswoman Mary-Patricia Wray said in a statement.
That hit was not forgotten, as last week Fayard’s campaign finally played the Duke card on Campbell – to hilarious effect…
A television ad that lawyer Caroline Fayard, D-New Orleans, ran this week in the Crescent City tries to tie her chief rival, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, D-Elm Grove, to the polarizing Duke. And that attempted association has irritated Campbell’s team.
The attack ad accuses Campbell of siding with Duke at a recent Alliance for Good Government forum at Loyola University and uses an audio recording of Campbell saying “I may be like Mr. Duke.”
It then goes on to say Campbell and Duke are the past and that Fayard is the future.
But the ad provides no context to Campbell’s statement. It doesn’t tell viewers that Campbell was answering a moderator’s question that asked him to name two tax exemptions he’d like to eliminate if elected senator. Duke, who also attended that Aug. 9 forum, had answered that question a few moments before.
“Oh yeah, you know I can name, I may be like Mr. Duke, I might be able to name like 10” tax exemptions, Campbell said.
That full quote came from a summary of oppositional research that Fayard’s team apparently had conducted on Campbell. While Campbell’s team provided it to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, it was also easily found Wednesday (Oct. 26) on Fayard’s campaign website, carolinefayard.com.
“In politics, plenty of people have lied about me. Most of them are smart enough not to leave the evidence behind,” Campbell said in a statement.
He also took exception to the ad running a photo from the forum of him and his son, Nicholas, speaking to Duke.
“What makes me really sick is that they put photos of my son, Nicholas, in this ad,” he said. “Implying my kids are connected to David Duke is pretty much the lowest thing there is.”
The Alliance for Good Government had actually endorsed Fayard, which was amusing since she’s the one candidate in the race who had been sanctioned heavily by the State Board of Ethics over a scheme to launder money from her father through the Louisiana Democrat Party and its PAC into her failed campaign for Lt. Governor in 2010, but they pulled the endorsement after she ran that ad because the Alliance had forbidden any recordings at their forum.
And after all this, there are three independent polls which show Campbell is ahead of Fayard for the “Democrat” spot in the runoff with Kennedy – though it’s possible that with a depressed turnout in the black community which is so far relatively pronounced in early voting, that Boustany might climb past Campbell and make for an all-Republican runoff.
If that does turn out to happen, perhaps both Fayard and Campbell will bemoan the presence of Duke after the election. None of the Republican candidates ever seemed to care much about him.
There was a story in the Advocate over the weekend about the fact LSU is the only school in the SEC at which athletic fundraising outstrips academic fundraising…
LSU is still trying to fix the leaks that flood the basement of Middleton Library during routine rainstorms. But it provides top-shelf maintenance to the world-class, $3 million live tiger habitat that it built on campus for the school mascot.
The university trimmed at least a half-dozen programs and lost a raft of star faculty members in recent years as the state cut support to its flagship school by more than half. And yet LSU is spending almost $10 million to buy out the contract and fire one of the most successful head football coaches in school history, a man who won 77 percent of his games.
The reason LSU can constantly tout new upgrades to Tiger Stadium while simultaneously struggling to provide enough dorm rooms for freshmen is that LSU is exceptional at fundraising for athletics and mediocre at raising dollars for academics.
In a typical year, LSU raises more money for athletic programs than it does for programs that benefit the classroom, according to tax filings reviewed by The Advocate.
One might expect that to be typical of all universities with major football programs. In fact, LSU is the outlier.
Of the nine schools in the Southeastern Conference with separate foundations for athletics and academics, LSU is the only one where athletic fundraising outpaces academic fundraising, according to the newspaper’s analysis of four years of tax documents.
“If you look at the buildings of LSU, all of the newest and most spectacular buildings belong to athletics,” said Kevin Cope, president of the Faculty Senate. “Meanwhile, there are faculty, students and community members who work in buildings where the plumbing doesn’t work, walls are falling down and the facilities are generally in a state of Third World disrepair.”
There is a simple answer for this, and it isn’t that LSU’s donors are all “subway alumni” who can’t read – which is the impression one gets from reading the article.
The answer is that LSU’s athletic department is accountable and has a verifiable commitment to excellence which is not, and has not been, evident within the academic side of the university.
That $10 million being spent to buy out Les Miles – which isn’t “LSU” spending it, by the way; it’s donors spending it – is verifiably a move aimed at improving the product Miles was in charge of. LSU was unranked when Miles was let go and they’re 14th and 15th in the polls now. There is no question the football team is better than it was when the change was made.
Is that change worth $10 million? Well, the atmosphere in the stadium is better, LSU is likely (we don’t know the numbers but we’d bet they bear this out) selling more tickets, concessions and merchandise, LSU is in position to get a better bowl bid and LSU’s recruiting could well be positively impacted. And if Ed Orgeron is able to earn the permanent head coaching job by winning out or going 3-1 in his last four games, LSU might actually end up spending less money on Orgeron’s salary than it was spending on Miles’. Over time you could make a very good argument that the Miles buyout will pay for itself.
And if nothing else, Miles being bought out is an indication that LSU’s athletic department doesn’t put up with leadership which has gone stale, gotten behind the times or is underachieving. Miles wasn’t the only LSU coach on the hot seat this year; the possibility exists that both Johnny Jones and Nikki Fargas will lose their jobs as the men’s and women’s basketball coaches, respectively, if they don’t greatly exceed current expectations.
That accountability, and that pursuit of excellence, attracts support. People support excellence or the attempt at it.
As far as academics are concerned, you can’t really make the argument LSU has the level of commitment to excellence. Cope’s quote about the Third World disrepair of the academic buildings tells it all. There are no athletic buildings at LSU in that level of disrepair; the athletic department takes care of its business better than that and maintains what it has. It does the proper maintenance which actually keeps such costs down – rather than the way the university handles things, which is to neglect its assets until they’re falling down and then cry about a lack of funding.
Donors see that pitiful exercise and it doesn’t excite them. The fact that until very recently the level of talent and resources applied to academic fundraising has been meager, and the entities in charge have been accurately described as cushy jobs programs for slackers with connections, doesn’t help matters.
Rebekah Allen at the Advocate might have intended her piece as a rebuke to all the athletic donors at LSU for their neglect of academics. Instead, she unwittingly explained why things are as they are. If you want to fix the imbalance in athletic-vs-academic donations at LSU, you need to solve the leadership problem the university has had since Mark Emmert left.
Today’s last thing is a lot more somber than our usual Today’s Last Things. On Thursday, a dear friend deserving of our tribute, Kevin Kane, passed away. He was 50.
Kevin might be known to our readers as the founder and CEO of the Pelican Institute, which is Louisiana’s conservative policy think tank. He founded Pelican in 2008, and since doing so he played a large role in a number of the larger policy fights in Louisiana – two of them being the fight for school choice and prison reform. Kevin was also a some-time contributor to the Hayride; particularly where it came to those two issues.
But in the last couple of years Kevin had been engaged in an even tougher fight. He had colon cancer, and on Thursday it finally got the best of him. He continued the fight for conservative causes almost to the last.
Kevin was a happy warrior, a gentleman and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. He will be terribly missed. And the status of the Pelican Institute, upon the loss of its driving force, is in question – that’s an unacceptable loss to conservatism in Louisiana given John Bel Edwards in the governor’s mansion.
There will be a ceremony in New Orleans to honor Kevin on Friday. There is also a GoFundMe to support his family – he left behind a wife and two daughters. We encourage our readers to give generously.